The winds of change swept slow growth into the city Tuesday night, but the same breeze was barely felt in the election for the Board of Directors.
Five candidates battled for two contested seats, offering voters a clear choice between retaining the course of the current board or changing it.
But in both cases, the electorate sent a clear message that the status quo is working just fine.
Mayor William E. Thomson Jr., a conservative board member running for his third four-year term representing District 7, scored a decisive victory over challenger Shirley Mauller, one of the leaders of the successful slow-growth initiative sponsored by Pasadena Residents in Defense of our Environment (PRIDE).
Thomson received 1,391 votes, or 63.1% of the total cast in District 7, to Mauller’s 815.
In the race for District 3, Chris Holden, who won the endorsement of retiring Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman, easily defeated former Black Panther Michael Zinzun and pro-development candidate Gretchen Sterling.
Holden received 696 votes, or 53.7% of the total, to Sterling’s 215 votes and Zinzun’s 385 votes. By receiving more than 50% of the vote, Holden avoided a runoff.
“I think Chris is going to be a careful and fair-minded board member, pretty much in the tradition of Loretta,” Thomson said. “That means we’re going to see a continuation of the board on much the same course it has been on.”
Director Jess Hughston of District 5 was also up for reelection this year, but no candidate challenged him and he was automatically returned to the seven-member board for a third term.
The clearest choice was in the race for District 7, which covers the southeastern section of the city.
Mauller, co-chairman of PRIDE, entered the campaign as a direct challenge to Thomson’s support of the city’s slow-growth proposal.
Mauller said voters needed an alternative candidate to the incumbents on the board whom she saw as partially responsible for unprecedented development in recent years.
But Thomson said the candidates’ stands on the slow-growth initiatives ultimately played a small role in the election.
Sees Other Factors
The main criteria in board elections has always been experience and continuity, he said. In his case, eight years on the board, a moderate voting record and a well-funded campaign proved to be the critical factors, he said.
In the District 3 race, the distinctions between candidates were just as sharp.
Holden, a real estate broker and the son of Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, waged a middle-of-the-road campaign that focused on improving city services, such as police patrols and street sweeping, for the economically depressed west-central neighborhoods in District 3.
He emphasized his endorsement from Thompson-Glickman, saying that he wanted to be seen as a candidate who would continue many of the policies and programs established by her. Thompson-Glickman is retiring after 12 years on the board.
In contrast, Zinzun ran a campaign that banked on his image as a feisty community activist who was raring to take on the stodgy Establishment. It proved to be his biggest asset, but also his biggest liability, he said.
“We had an image problem early on,” he said. “It was Michael Zinzun the radical, Michael Zinzun the militant, Michael Zinzun, can he deliver?”
Confrontation With Police
Zinzun, who is chairman of the Coalition on Police Abuse in Los Angeles, was involved in a confrontation with Pasadena police officers in 1986 that cost him the sight in his left eye. He sued the city and received a $1.2-million settlement last year.
Sterling, a former member of the Planning Commission, ran on a platform opposing both slow-growth measures on the ballot.
She said she probably suffered at the polls because of the support for PRIDE’s initiative.
But Sterling said one of her biggest problems was the low voter turnout that seemed to show that there were few strong feelings about making a change on the board.
Out of 6,721 registered voters in the district, only 1,296, or 19.3%, voted.
“Just look at the number of voters,” she said. “It’s a mandate of apathy.”
Winners are in bold type. (Inc.) designates incumbent office holder.
58 of 58 precincts
BOARD OF CITY DIRECTORS District 3
6 of 6 precincts, 20.1% turnout
Vote % Chris Holden 696 53.7 Michael Zinzun 385 29.7 Gretchen Sterling 215 16.6
In District 5, Incumbent Jess Hughston was unopposed.
9 of 9 precincts, 21.6% turnout
Vote % William Thomson (Inc.) 1,391 63.1 Shirley Mauller 815 39.9